ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
their command — how many men, what supplies, what weapons, offensive and defensive. But also, that being done, if their enemies do not yield and come to an agreement, they feel at liberty to do their worst, and do not think that they can be reproached with treason or cunning, whatever means they make use of to conquer. The ancient Florentines were so far from desiring to obtain advantage over their enemies by surprise, that they gave them warning a month before putting their army in the field, by the constant ringing of the bell they called “‘Martinella.”
(a) As for our less superstitious selves, who hold the honour of war to be his who has the benefit of it, and who, following Lysander, say that, where the lion’s skin does not suffice, we must add to it a piece of the fox’s, the most common occasions of surprise are derived from such doing, and there is no time, we say, when a commander should have a more watchful eye than that of parleys and treaties of peace; and for that reason, it is a rule echoed by all the military men of our day, that the commandant of a besieged stronghold must never himself go outside the gates to parley. In the time of our fathers, the lords of Montmord and of Assigni, who were defending Mousson against the Count of Nassau, were blamed for so doing. But yet, in this matter, he would be excusable who should manage his going out in such a way that safety and advantage would remain with him, as Count Guy de Rangon did in the city of Reggio (if we are to believe du Bellay about it, for Guicciardini says that it was he himself), when the Lord of l’Escut approached the walls to parley; for he was so far from abandoning his safe ground that, a disturbance having arisen during the negotiation, not only did Monsieur de l’Escut and his soldiers, who had come out with him, find themselves the weaker party, so that Alessandro Trivulzio was killed, but he himself was forced, as the safest course, to follow the
- Goulard, Histoire du Portugal, XIV, 16.
- See Giovanni Villani, Cronica, VI, 75.
- See Plutarch, Life of Lysander.
- See Mémoires du Bellay, I, 22.
- Guicciardini, IV; du Bellay, I, 29. Guicciardini was governor of Reggio.